Best Picture Odyssey: “Nebraska”

Well, we’ve reached the end of the series. I kinda wish I had something more bombastic to close with, but this isn’t exactly a great list of nominees. I mean, I don’t hate all the films, and a few of them even made my top 10 from last year (including this week’s subject), but for the most part this is a pretty forgettable group of films. It’s a side effect of expanding the field to nine or ten nominees. When’s the last time you heard someone talk about Beasts of the Southern Wild, or Amour? I can’t see Philomena or Dallas Buyers Club still being dissected and analyzed next February.  Continue reading Best Picture Odyssey: “Nebraska”

Best Picture Odyssey: “Captain Phillips”

This is going to be a much shorter review than the other ones in this series, for a couple reasons. First, and probably most importantly, I haven’t seen this movie in a very long while. It came out in October, the second earliest release of any of its fellow nominees (bested only by Gravity) and it’s not exactly the kind of film that ingrains itself in the cultural zeitgeist for very long after it comes out. To be honest, I don’t remember it very well. I mean, I remember scenes and shots and moments. But if I had any in-depth opinions on it, they’re long gone. There is another reason that this is going to be a short review, though. I spent most of this week thinking about another movie, one that I liked a lot more than this and one that I have a lot more to say about. That review will go up in a day or so. But anyway. Captain Phillips. Let’s do this.

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Best Picture Odyssey: “Philomena”

Ugh, do I have to?

That sounds like a negative judgment, but it’s not. In fact, I think this is a pretty good movie, all things considered. But it’s not a really interesting type of good. It’s so generically effective and engaging that talking about it is kinda boring. Well, here goes nothing.

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Best Picture Odyssey: “Her”

Are we too invested in our technology?

I’ve always brushed that question off as the standard generational denigration that’s existed for as long as the concept of change. The idea that “things were better back then” has always been fallacious, because it implies that people living “back then” weren’t also complaining about how terrible things had become. The critiques of the current youngest generation have always been based on their (okay, our) perceived over-reliance on technology. “People are so attached to their smartphones that they can’t look around and experience real life!” has been the battle cry of crotchety old fogies since the first behind-the-times cable news report on this newfangled thing called “texting.” It always seemed ridiculous. Continue reading Best Picture Odyssey: “Her”

Best Picture Odyssey: “American Hustle”

When I was a little kid, I didn’t understand how keys worked. All I knew was that mommy or daddy stuck a key into the doorknob, jiggled it a little, and the door magically became openable. I didn’t understand that the turning of the key was what did it, and my brain didn’t have enough information to come up with a valid answer. So I decided that maybe if I put the key in the doorknob and shook it so that it made the same sounds that it did when mommy or daddy did it, the door would probably unlock. I tested this hypothesis, and of course it failed. I bring this up because it’s such a perfect metaphor for what’s wrong with American Hustle. David O. Russell doesn’t know how to make a thoughtful, engaging film. He just knows what one sounds like. American Hustle is him shaking the hell out of that key so that it makes just the right noise, and he gets the exact same result that I did.

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Best Picture Odyssey: “Dallas Buyers Club”

Well, this isn’t a great way to kick off the series. I wish I could begin with a more positive review, but I have a lot of things to say about this film so I might as well get them out now. Dallas Buyers Club is an atrocious movie. It’s the kind of film where it seems like everyone involved was completely half-assing it. Even the title card and the subtitles appear to be in the default font from some editing software. The script is stiff and artificial, the directing is soulless and purposeless, and almost all the actors are on auto-pilot. Save for one, of course.

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